Great South Bay declared 'management area'
Tue, Jun 02 2009 at 3:03 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy applauded Brookhaven Town officials for their groundbreaking efforts to designate the Conservancy’s underwater lands in Great South Bay a “management area” under its town code today. Such a measure is a big step in ensuring future sustainability of depleted clams in addition to furthering the recovery of this important body of water for all of Long Island.
Hard clams play a vital role in the bay, helping maintain water quality by filtering debris as they feed. Four years ago, The Nature Conservancy, backed by a wide range of public and private supporters including Suffolk County, embarked on one of the most ambitious shellfish restoration efforts in the nation to “make the Great South bay Great Again” by restoring its severely depleted hard clam population.
“Today’s announcement will play a major roll in protecting the ongoing recovery of the clam population,” said Nathan Woiwode, marine and coastal policy advisory for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “The designation of “management area” will afford a more clearly defined status for Brookhaven Town law enforcement personnel to provide the appropriate protections to the recovering clam populations, by applying the same set of regulatory and legal protections to the designated lands as are applied to Town owned lands that have received this same designation.”
“The Great South Bay and clamming has been a part of my life since I was a young kid,” said Brookhaven Councilman Timothy Mazzei. “This special designation enhances the partnership between the town of Brookhaven and the Conservancy by enabling the town to provide a new level of protection and security to this extremely critical resource. I am extremely pleased to offer this resolution and for the town of Brookhaven to do its part in this worthy endeavor.”
At the start of the shellfish recovery effort in 2004, the clam population was so low that they were no longer reproducing successfully. To help boost reproduction, the Nature Conservancy-led partnership added over three million adult clams, creating a network of over 50 sites, or sanctuaries on its 13,400-acre property, where adult clams could grow and reproduce without disturbance.
A 2008 survey of the bay revealed over 320 million juvenile clams which The Nature Conservancy believes are offspring of the adult clams the group has been stocking in the bay. That represents a 4000 percent increase in the clam population of the central part of the bay since 2006 and a positive sign that restoration objectives will be met. However recurring episodes of brown tide, natural predators and over-fishing are a continued threat.
“We have worked with a long list of partners on the Bluepoints Bottomlands Council to develop and implement strategies aimed at jumpstarting clam reproduction,” said Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island.
“We couldn’t be happier to see the population start to show initial signs of recovery for the first time in decades. Thanks to designation of our property as a special management area, the many baby clams that are settling into Brookhaven’s waters have a much better chance of survival and sustainability into the future. Working with our partners ensures the continued success of this exciting restoration project and the viability of Great South Bay.”
“Great South Bay is an important part of our heritage and our future. It is a place where Long Islanders work, play and live,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. “This work benefits not only Brookhaven residents, but all Suffolk County residents and all Long Islanders.”
Hard clams once were so abundant that Great South Bay supplied over 50 percent of the entire nation’s hard clams. Today the reported commercial harvest is down by more than 99 percent. Not only does the decline of shellfish have economic impacts, but water quality is also affected. Chronic algal blooms (such as brown tide), which negatively impact marine life in the Great South Bay, have been linked to declining clam populations. Clams filter water and help keep the algae in control.
“Restoring the bay not only has important benefits to our economy and environment, but also to our quality of life as Brookhaven residents,” added Mazzei. “Though the investments we have made are paying off, our work is far from finished. We must remain committed to protecting the investments we are making so that future generations in Suffolk County inherit a healthy bay with an abundance of clams. Let’s all continue to work together to tell our grandchildren the success story of the Great South Bay.”
The Nature Conservancy is thankful to its generous supporters from Suffolk County, New York State, NOAA Restoration Center, Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon Townships, Knapp/Swezey Foundation, Lowe's Companies, Inc., National Grid Foundation, Pall Corporation, Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, the Joseph and Sylvia Slifka Foundation, and the Wildlife Forever Fund.
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